AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 152 Astronomy Research in Undergraduate Classes
Poster, Thursday, January 13, 2005, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall

Previous   |   Session 152   |   Next

[152.04] A Small-Radio-Telescope Network for VLBI

D. B. Shaffer (Comm College Southern Nevada), M. L. Cobb (Southeast Missouri State Univ.)

In the last several years, high schools, colleges, universities, and even some private amateur radio astronomers have put some 120 copies of the commercially-available Haystack Small Radio Telescope (SRT) into operation. Haystack Observatory is now working on a new version of the SRT, designed to be used in an interferometer (see paper by Vats and Rogers, this conference).

We show how the new SRT, or other similar small radio telescopes, could be adapted for educational and scientific VLBI observations of continuum and OH line sources, with a relatively small additional investment. We propose that one or more large radio telescopes join a network of the small antennas, so that fringes would be readily detected between the large antenna(s) and the small antennas. An 85-foot antenna such as those at PARI or the 40-meter antenna of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory would serve nicely as a base station. Eventually, as data storage and transmission capacity continue to improve, the small antennas should be able to operate on their own.

Our emphasis is on a simple, inexpensive VLBI system. The most critical item is good frequency standard. For observations at 21 or 18 cm, a rubidium standard is good enough. (Inexpensive Rb standards can be found on E-bay!) Local time at each station would come from GPS receivers which readily provide sub-microsecond timing accuracy. One-bit data sampling at rates on the order of 10 megasamples per second could be performed with a simple box interfaced to a PC via USB. Sampled data would first be recorded to the PC hard drive, and then sent on CD-ROM or DVD through the mail or by internet to a central correlation facility. Correlation and data analysis for the network would be performed on PCs as well.

We suggest an observing scenario comprised of scans that are several minutes long and taken several times per hour during the apparition of a compact source. The total data for the 10-12 hours that a source is "up" for a USA network would fit on a few CD-ROMs or a single DVD. The raw and correlated data would be available to any participant or other interested party for analysis, using common analysis programs such as AIPS. Long-term monitoring of the stronger variable sources could be done at weekly or monthly intervals.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: shaffer@nevada.edu

Previous   |   Session 152   |   Next

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.